The Montreal Canadiens started their week with a fair bit of anxiety hanging around the team. With the team’s preeminent offensive threat on the sidelines, how would the Habs’ offence keep up?
In response to Alex Galchenyuk’s injury, David Desharnais was thrust into a greater role, only to suffer Galchenyuk’s fate himself almost immediately afterward.
Thankfully, the Habs were able to dispel some of that anxiety with their compelling win over the New Jersey Devils on Thursday night, but a bit of perspective might be in order regardless.
As I imagine a fan of the Colorado Avalanche might tell you, things could be much worse.
How to Watch
Puck drop: 7:00 PM ET/4:00 PM PT
In Canada: SN360 (English), CITY (English), TVAS (French)
In the Avalanche region: ALT
Elsewhere: NHL GameCenter, NHL Center Ice
Tale of the Tape
|52.03||Score-Adjusted Corsi %||47.46|
|1.39||5v5 Goal Ratio||0.7|
The Avs have plainly struggled this season.
Their goal output in all situations is the lowest in the league right now, albeit with fewer games played than their closest competitors. Their special teams are each comfortably in the average-to-below-average range.
Nathan Mackinnon and Matt Duchene are carrying the team offensively, but they aren’t getting much help from some of their big name colleagues. Gabriel Landeskog has been hurt, and was recently joined in sick bay by top pairing defenceman Erik Johnson. Jarome Iginla has pulled his weight possession-wise, but hasn’t had much to offer on the score sheet.
Combined with Semyon Varlamov’s putrid goaltending, it’s been a challenging start to the season in the Mile High City. All else equal, there should be no reason why the Habs shouldn’t be able to handle them the same way they did New Jersey.
Of course, things don’t always remain equal, and if there’s hope for the Avalanche, it probably lies in the hands of some key young players.
Calvin Pickard has decisively outperformed Varlamov in the crease so far, and after helping his team earn a win against the Bruins on Thursday, he’ll get the start again tonight. To outdo Varlamov may be to clear a pretty low bar right at the moment, but even average goaltending could go a long way to stabilizing a Colorado team in turmoil.
In the forward corps, Head Coach Jared Bednar has seen great returns on the confident use of 20-year-old winger Mikko Rantanen. While heavily sheltered, both in terms of his linemates and zone deployment, Rantanen has proven himself capable of riding shotgun for the Avalanche’s top talent. Accordingly, he finds himself in the top-five in team scoring heading into tonight’s game.
But most important of all is the return of Colorado’s captain, Gabriel Landeskog, who is scheduled to rejoin the lineup tonight after missing almost a month’s action. On a team lacking depth, Landeskog is a bonafide top line forward in every way, and whether he skates with Mackinnon or Duchene or anchors his own line, his presence will give the Canadiens’ defence one more problem to contend with.
With Landeskog’s team still working on its own long list of issues, their best chance is for their key cogs to be ready to expose Montreal’s weaknesses tonight.